Joe Ingles took his time in the shower, answered all of the postgame questions from reporters and even encouraged a few more. Sure, he was the last person in the Jazz’s locker room, but he wasn’t worried.
He knew Donovan Mitchell would be the last person on the team bus.
That’s because Mitchell invited “200-300” friends, family, former teammates and more to Wednesday’s Jazz/Knicks game, making his homecoming to the area in which he grew up. Of course, mom Nicole and sister Jordan were part of the group, but so were many more from Mitchell’s 20 years in the area.
“It’s home,” Mitchell said about being back in New York. “You feel a sense of comfort.”
Mitchell’s more comfortable than he was in his previous visits to New York. Last year, the two trips came in a whirlwind of a rookie year, while the early season trip to Brooklyn found Mitchell in the midst of a relative slump.
“Last year, I was still trying to figure out my situation, as far as my role, where I was at, my rookie year. I have an idea of where I’m at, and now I’m trying to build on that,” Mitchell said.
Was Quin Snyder worried about Mitchell being distracted for the game?
“I don’t ever want to feel like he can’t embrace parts of the game or life that should be fun. It should be fun to go home," Snyder said. “I don’t want him to think that he has to do anything differently one way or the other. Just play.”
Mitchell embraced the opportunity, scoring 30 points on 20 shots and in just 28 minutes on the court.
“It’s a blessing, and life comes full circle,” Mitchell said. “It’s pretty special being a player here.”
Ricky Rubio’s guest of honor
Jazz point guard Ricky Rubio also had a special guest in attendance at Wednesday’s game: 12-year-old Luca de la Vega, who is a basketball player for Unió Esportiva Mataró, a club in Spain. When de La Vega suffered a cramp in his shoulder, doctors discovered the presence of Lymphoblastic Lymphoma T cancer.
Rubio learned about de la Vega’s story and surprised the youngster by visiting his house in Spain last summer. Then, he flew the young boy and his family to New York for Wednesday’s contest, where he received the VIP treatment: watching warmups courtside, meeting and receiving autographs from all of the Jazz’s players, and hanging out with the team in the locker room after the game.